Big cookies have always been a part of our family. They have been there to help celebrate our happy times and endure our stressful ones. Molasses cookies tucked into a lunch box brought a bit of comfort from home on that first day of school. On hectic mornings, there were carrot and fruit breakfast mounds to grab on the way out the door. When our daughter rented her first apartment, we baked chocolate chips. And when our son, Peter, married Kate, every guest left with a bag of what we call Big-Hearted Butter Shortbread.
Like that person who's so right for you, shortbread is easy to love. The ingredients are simple, it's fast to mix and easy to roll, and its chief flavor is butter, pure butter. In baking, the term "short" refers to a dough that has a large proportion of fat (read: butter) to flour. The cornstarch that replaces some of the flour in this version lowers the gluten content of the dough and makes the cookies especially tender. For an extra zing of flavoring, you might want to add 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest, 2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest, or 3/4 teaspoon almond extract to the dough along with the vanilla. The cookies can be shaped any way you like -- trees, shamrocks, bells and stars are possibilities. But just before Valentine's Day, big, luscious hearts seem the only way to go.
(Courtesy Of Chronicle Books)
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Text and recipes excerpted and adapted from "Big Fat Cookies" by Elinor Klivans (Chronicle Books, 2004).
2 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for work surface
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Powdered Sugar Glaze
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract